Campus News

Despite COVID challenges, state of UB is strong

President Satish K. Tripathi delivers his 10th State of the University address from the stage in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall. Photo: Douglas Levere


Published October 11, 2021

“Let me assure you that despite the many challenges we have faced over the past year and a half, the state of the university is strong — across every facet of our university. ”
President Satish K. Tripathi

The valuable role UB has played in helping the region navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and its smooth return to in-person instruction are telling indicators of the state of the university in 2021, President Satish K. Tripathi said in his annual address to the campus.

“Let me assure you that despite the many challenges we have faced over the past year and a half, the state of the university is strong — across every facet of our university,” Tripathi said.

“As we settle back into the rhythms and routines of a place-based institution, I think it’s safe to say that none of us is taking the status quo for granted.”

Tripathi gave his 10th annual State of the University Address on Friday in Slee Hall, where he spoke on a variety of topics, including UB’s ambition to become one of the Top 25 public research universities in the nation; its commitment to diversity and inclusion; and reaching its $1 billion fundraising goal.

In addition, the president noted students who are being nationally recognized for their scholarship, and cited the innovation of faculty, whose research is leading to breakthroughs and entrepreneurship that’s helping spur the region’s economy. Tripathi also spoke of UB’s progress in fulfilling its capital master plan and pointed to the construction taking place around its campuses.

COVID, however, was a theme throughout the president’s remarks, as he lauded the university community both for weathering the health crisis and for the imprint UB has made during these turbulent times.

In the community, UB faculty have been essential in providing evidence-based information about COVID-19, he said. The university hosts a regional vaccination site, led the regional effort to get people vaccinated, and when demand for vaccines was at its highest, UB students created a website to help people find appointments.

In the laboratory, UB is part of a statewide effort to identify COVID variants. Human trials are underway for a vaccine candidate developed by a faculty startup. Meanwhile, researchers have devised a surveillance system to monitor COVID and other viral infections in wastewater.

“As I consider the past 22 months within the frame of our history, I am moved by the meaningful contributions of our faculty, students and staff,” Tripathi said.

“In meeting this defining moment with creativity, compassion and innovation, you embody the principles of service on which our great university was founded.”

In noting this year’s 175th anniversary of UB, Tripathi reflected on whether the founders could have envisioned the university producing physicians who contributed to not one but two pandemics.

“If UB’s founders could see us now, I like to think that they would approve of how far we have come and all that we have achieved,” Tripathi said.

During his roughly 45-minute speech, the president addressed several issues, including:

Top 25 Ambition. Besides noting specific faculty research, Tripathi offered encouraging proof points in UB’s goal to be among the Top 25 public research universities in the nation.

Research expenditures from state, federal and internal investments totaled $422 million in 2020. Faculty citations, another key measure, have increased 150% over five years, he said.

“As I have said before, our ambition is not about pride,” he said. “It is about the positive impact we make through our research, clinical care, creative endeavors and educational excellence.”

Student experience. “Our retention rates and our four- and six-year graduation rates are strong. But we can do better,” Tripathi said. “And in service to our students, we will.”

Tripathi wants to boost the retention rate between years one and two at UB from 86% to 93% by 2025.

By 2025, he also wants to increase the four-year graduation rate to 65% and six-year graduation rate to 80%.

“We want our students not only to experience an exceptional education, but also advance toward degree completion in a timely manner,” he said.

The President’s Advisory Council on Race. UB, under Provost A. Scott Weber, is working to implement recommendations from the advisory committee that Tripathi formed last year. The aim is to ensure the university’s programs, policies and actions are aligned with the principles of social justice.

Seven working groups made up of 135 faculty, students and staff are involved in implementing recommendations that would impact a range of areas, including curriculum, pedagogy, faculty hiring, retention and promotion, and community engagement.

“Our goal is to ensure that we are purposefully aligning everything we do with values and practices of diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice,” Tripathi said.

Sustainability. UB is on its way to achieving climate neutrality by 2030, Tripathi said.

With the installation of the university’s solar arrays nearly complete, UB will produce 2.9 million kilowatt hours in the first year, he said. That’s equivalent to off-setting the energy use of nearly 500 homes a year.

In fact, Tripathi noted that among institutions of higher education, UB ranked No. 1 in the world for climate action this year, according to the 2021 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings. He thanked the UB Foundation for aligning investment decisions with UB’s sustainability goals.

Boldly Buffalo. Tripathi last spring announced UB has extended the goal of its fundraising campaign to $1 billion. On Friday, the president announced that nearly $797 million has been committed to the Boldly Buffalo campaign.

“A billion dollars is a bold goal,” he said. “But it is an achievable goal.”

Opening Friday’s address was UB student Marcus Lolo, who performed an original piano composition for those in attendance.